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UPDATED: What is the status of the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron?

UPDATE: On Sunday March 25, 2012 the High Court rejected the deal between the State and the settlers in Migron to delay its evacuation till November 2015. Instead they have set a deadline of August 1, 2012. The article below, posted earlier in the week, explains the status of illegal outposts and the background on Migron specifically.  

There are approximately 50 outposts – essentially baby settlements – in the West Bank, all illegal according to Israeli law. Migron, established in 2002, is supposed to be dismantled by the end of March, 2012. So why isn’t that going to happen? 

By Max Schindler

Peace Now settlement tour showing Ariel (Photo: Tal Goldman)

I joined a tour of the West Bank hosted by Peace Now on Friday to inform the public on the dangers of unabated settlement construction, just two days after the High Court of Justice hearing over whether to approve a government-brokered deal to relocate the illegal outpost of Migron in the West Bank.

Migron is classified as an ‘outpost,” meaning its construction is illegal under both Israeli and international law. The High Court has already ruled that Migron must be evacuated by the end of this month, however the state wants to postpone the demolition in order to move residents to a nearby settlement that will be ready in 2015.

Stopping on a hilltop south of Migron called Sh’ar Binyamin, Peace Now staffers Lior Amichai and Etai Mizrav pointed to the outpost, explaining its story and why its blatantly illegality under Israeli law is a turning point for the settlement movement.

In 2001, settlers in neighboring Kochav Yaakov complained of a lack of cellular service on the connecting road and applied for a construction permit.  “They said ‘Let’s build an antenna,’” Mizrav explained. But a cellular radio tower was merely the first step in laying the foundation for a new outpost.

“Now they said, ‘we need security for the antenna.’ And it was dangerous [at the height of the Second Intifada] to position one lone guard at the site. So let’s build temporary housing— a caravan— for the guard,” Mizrav said, “and let’s move in his family.”

The following year, settlers constructed temporary caravan housing on the hilltop. Today, nearly 50 families live on this hilltop now known as Migron— the largest outpost in the West Bank— and the IDF provides security for its residents.

The High Court has ruled that Migron is built on private Palestinian land. The Israeli military Civil Administration and the State Attorney agree that the outpost is located on land owned by Palestinians from the neighboring Deir Dibwan and Burka villages. The local Palestinians hold the title deeds— from before 1967— to the land.

In their defense, Migron residents argue that the Israeli government invested heavily in the Migron outpost, a de facto form of retroactive legalization. According to the Jerusalem Post, Migron attorney Barak Bar-Shalom said that “Israel is responsible for the situation. The state was very involved in Migron’s development, pouring millions of shekels into it, and the Housing Ministry issued permits for 500 housing units in Migron.”

Today, the State wants to postpone Migron’s evacuation deadline in order to construct a new settlement for the residents nearby on Hayekev Hill. This is explained in a Channel 10 report on the hefty price to build a new settlement.

The High Court is expected to rule on the state’s request next week but is skeptical of the state’s proposal to postpone. At the court hearing, Justice Salim Joubran asked the state attorney:

“What will the rule of law look like when ruling is not followed?…You say that the outpost in three years, but I know this type of behavior. Three years will inevitably turn into eight.”

Peace Now staffer Amichai warned that any court decision delaying Migron’s demolition could portend grave risks for Israeli sovereignty. “It’s a fight for democracy.  If Migron won’t be demolished, the consequences are horrible. It means the State cannot demolish even one outpost—it’s a statement to the settlers and they are surrendering.”

Aside from the Migron outpost, Peace Now toured a number of settlements that vary in ideological and religious composition.

Visiting the Givon access road, Amichai pointed out the Palestinian-only tunnel to four villages encircled by the separation barrier— Betunia, Beit Hanina, Al Judera and Al Jib. Palestinian residents are forced to use the underground passage due to large-scale Israeli settlement construction.

Friday’s tour also included a stopover in Ariel— a settlement of 18,000 residents located 20 kilometers inwards from the Green Line. Earlier this week, Peter Beinart mentioned Ariel in a New York Times op-ed, saying it “stretches deep into the West Bank” and lauding authors David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A.B. Yehoshua for boycotting the settlement, which the Prime Minister has called “the heart of Israel.”

Some of the members on the tour were religious settlers. One participant, Dvir— who preferred not to give his last name— is from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. He said that he joined Peace Now’s tour “in order to hear the other side.”

During the tour, Peace Now handed out color-coded, expandable maps pinpointing the hundreds of Israeli settlements that dot the West Bank landscape. According to Peace Now, approximately 310,000 settlers live in the territories (if you include East Jerusalem, the number soars to 650,000 residents— nearly 10 percent of the Israeli populace).

Around 70,000 settlers live on the “wrong” side of the separation barrier, deep in the West Bank. In any possible  peace deal— tens of thousands of settlers would have to be evacuated. When asked if such a withdrawal is politically possible, Americans for Peace Now spokesperson Ori Nir sounded optimistic.

“Bricks and mortar are the most difficult to quantify,” Nir said. “If there’s a strong Prime Minister who has sold the deal, more settlements will not break it.”

Nir added that there are two points of “irreversibility:” the changing demographic reality and a lack of “swappable” land. The two constituencies most opposed to a peace deal, he added, are the ones growing the fastest: the ultra-Orthodox and national religious sectors.

Max Schindler is a student at Cornell University who is spending the year volunteering on a kibbutz and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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    COMMENTS

    1. DanS.

      So what about San Remo? Turkish State Lands? Peel Commission Report? Elon Moreh Supreme Court Decisions? anyone paying attention? The ’48 War is still not over.

      C’mon, dude – THINK!

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      Yet thousands of apologists repeat the mantra: “If only the Arabs give up terrorism, the occupation will magically and immediately end.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Andrew

      The 70,000 settlers on the “wrong” side of the Barrier are just the tip of the iceberg (although it’s a big tip, and huge iceberg). There is Ariel. There is Efrat, which cuts off (and was intended to cut off) Bethlehem from Hebron. There is Har Homa, which seals off (and was intended to seal off) Jerusalem from Bethlehem. And on and on.

      It will be necessary to transfer sovereignty over the homes of far more than 100,000 settlers to permit the creation of anything resembling a sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

      “If there’s a strong Prime Minister who has sold the deal…” I do not understand this optimism. This article discusses the trauma associated with removing ONE OUTPOST. I cannot see any potential Prime Minister capable of slowing down settlement expansion, let alone selling any deal to the Israeli people that has the remotest chance of permitting the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

      Or perhaps Ori Nir has a specific politician in mind?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Calling outposts “illegal” is downright misleading.
      All settlements are illegal. The outposts are convenient tactical assets to play the victimhood card when needed without much damage, and at the same time occupy the territory slowly but surely.
      We can already hear the laments of terrible concessions, just to make the world forget the bulk of the occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    5. From the piece:
      Peace Now staffer Amichai warned that any court decision delaying Migron’s demolition could portend grave risks for Israeli sovereignty. “It’s a fight for democracy. If Migron won’t be demolished, the consequences are horrible. It means the State cannot demolish even one outpost—it’s a statement to the settlers and they are surrendering.”
      ——-
      It is not Israeli sovereignty which is in jeopardy but the rule of law, to which the State should be subject. A delay of three years will create new facts on the ground which may create another appeal, or another request for dealy from the State. The High Court becomes ineffectual. Israel has yet to assent to judicial supremacy. As I have said before on this site, in the 1830’s President Andrew Jackson in the US gleefully refused to obey Supreme Court orders on the issue of Indian removal. Indians died in forced relocation. But judicial supremacy evolved slowly in the US; Israel does not have that luxury.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Piotr Berman

      The High Court is ineffectual. I understand that there is a number of its decisions that are basically half-hearted suggestions.

      Law in Israel serves to assert supremacy of Jews over Arabs (and others like Armenians) and of better Jews over inferior Jews. Occasionally courts rule in another directions, but I recall only one instance when the Court order actually reversed an important decision, which was preventing Arab parties from participating in elections. But even in that case it is doubtful if Court would be obeyed, if not the fear that it would activate European human rights bureaucracies.

      Reply to Comment
    7. directrob

      Somehow I feel uneasy about this article. To illustrate what the policies do you can highlight single families that suffer, but to discuss the Israeli West Bank policies you need to back off and show the grand scheme. Area C must become Israel and all Palestinian presence is unwelcome. The rest of the West Bank is choked. All small judicial battles are just diversion.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Israel is indeed in a dark time of its law. But I have seen, in legal history, where a small battle, or a dissent written in apparent defeat, can come later to win the day.
      .
      What other field of battle remains that is not a call to destruction?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Sherri Munnerlyn

      All settlements in the OPT of East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the settlers’ illegal presence on this stolen Palestinian land are daily war crimes and crimes against humanity and crimes against God. They all should remove themselves from the illegal land they squat upon, or await to reap what they have sown, aka God’s wrath, to descend upon them and their illegal settler children.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Aviela, Proud Resident of Migron

      Journalistic integrity means that one must get both sides of the story, which is sorely lacking here. Migron was built legally and in good faith, while the purported Arab landowners have yet to prove ownership in a court of law. In fact their monetary damages case was thrown out of court, and they were judged to pay damages, both to the State and to Migron. We welcome journalists, synagogue groups, youth groups and rabbis to contact us at aviela.deitch @gmail.com.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Shahar

      Migron was build on rocky ground. none of the “True Owners” can proove his rights on this place.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Offshore Company

      Do you mind if I quote a several of your
      posts as long as I provide credit and sources returning to your weblog: http:
      //972mag.com/updated-what-is-the-status-of-the-illegal-west-bank-outpost-of-migron/39093/.
      Please let me know if this is okay with you. Many thanks

      Reply to Comment
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